Sport tourism is much more than just one-off sport activities. It can form a unique culture at the destination, enhance long term tourism development and certainly has great economic benefits as one of the fastest growing and more profitable tourism sectors; that is if planned and developed appropriately.
Apart from the direct revenue that high spending sport tourism visitors can bring to the destination, there are also indirect benefits to look for when developing and promoting sport tourism and especially the great potential of favourable word of mouth and increased media attention to sustain and increase a positive destination image. Here are some recent cases of destinations embracing the sports industry in various ways.
Real Madrid Resort Island
One of the world’s biggest and best supported football clubs, Real Madrid, recently revealed more details of its ambitious plan about the world’s first ‘sportainment’ destination on Al-Marjan Island in Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK).
The 50-hectare resort will be the flagship of the Al-Marjan Development and aims to attract one million visitors a year when it is completed in January 2015. RAK had been chosen for the pioneering project due to the Emirate’s location, equidistant between Europe and the Far East, home to half the estimated 300 million fans and followers of the club, according to Perez, President of Real, in an innovative way in which football clubs try to make money.
The first recreational tourism complex built under the Real Madrid trademark will be a comprehensive sporting destination complete with luxury hotels, a marina and amusement park featuring the use of latest technologies such as hologram animations. It will also house a 10,000-seat stadium, the first in the world to open directly open to the sea, as well as sports facilities, a club museum, shopping mall, private beaches and residential areas.
Perez added: ‘This is a decisive and strategic step that will enhance the strength of this institution in the Middle East and Asia, a key region in which the passion for this club is very apparent and growing. The project may be seen as unusual for a football club, but we feel this will set a trend across the industry as clubs try to find new ways to make money.”
The development is a decisive step forward towards the emirate becoming a tourism destination in its own right. By 2021, RAK expects around 20 percent of its GDP will be generated by tourism-related activities, which even by 2011 figures would mean the industry would be generating in excess of $1 billion per year, an excellent return on investments currently under way.
Tourism Ireland & Lyon Football Club
To capitalise on the huge exposure of the club’s home games, highly visible sideline ads for Ireland will urge French consumers to ‘vibrez au rythme de l’Irlande’ (part of Tourism Ireland’s brand new ‘Jump into Ireland’ campaign) until the end of the football season in May at Stade Gerland. The new deal marks the start of Tourism Ireland’s ambitious plan to increase visitor numbers from France.
OL is one of the most popular football clubs in France with a huge following right across the country. Around 5 million TV viewers will see Lyon games when they air on top French TV stations including Canal Plus, Orange and Sports Plus.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said: “This is a great example of innovative thinking, which will raise awareness of Ireland as a tourism destination in some five million French living rooms. Competition from rival tourism markets is getting ever more intense, so we need to constantly find new ways of selling Ireland as a tourism destination. I’m also delighted to see sporting occasions being used to promote Irish tourism in this manner.”
France is Ireland’s fourth largest overseas tourism market. Following our extensive review of the French market last year, Tourism Ireland has put an ambitious plan in place to increase the number of French holidaymakers by +40% over four years, according to Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland.
“We are targeting a number of new consumer segments which we believe have strong potential for growth, including a younger and more active audience – hence our partnership this spring with Olympique Lyonnais. French holidaymakers are younger than average and it is now easier than ever to get to the island of Ireland from all parts of France, including from Lyon with a year-round flight operated by Aer Lingus. “